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· Robin Nicholson

Time for action

Robin Nicholson reports on Futurebuild 2019

Last October, the IPCC report gave us just ‘12 years to go’ and in January Greta Thunberg challenged the World Economic Forum in Davos with ‘Our house is on fire’ and lit a global teenage touch-paper. So, at last the pressure is building and Futurebuild 2019 was the place to learn more about what we can and must do. Many of the events were filmed and can be found on Colab-CPD.

The Edge, of which I am Convenor, helped organise six of the fourteen main conference ‘Challenges’ including Leadership, Retrofit, Environment, Future Practice and Housing. Edge members chaired six of the Challenges and took part in many of the subject-focused workshops on the Future of Buildings, Energy, Interiors, Materials, Urban Infrastructure and Off-site; and then there was the Future of Waste with the University of Brighton.

Philip Graham of Cullinan Studio spoke at an excellent Vision Symposium on Housing London, responding to GLA’s Head of Housing James Clark along with Rebecca Tunstall from the University of York and Hilary Burkitt of Shelter. Phil explored the real costs of housing and how to stabilize and de-speculate the market in the search for Appropriate Housing.

Philip Graham of Cullinan Studio discusses Appropriate Housing

The most radical of the Challenges was ‘Rebel Leadership – the challenge to real change’ chaired by Chris Jofeh (Arup and Edge). This is where I first heard about the direct action group Extinction Revolution and the breath-taking voluntary efforts of the London National Park City to be launched in July.

The academics spelled it out with UCL Professor of Global Change Science Simon Lewis starting the whole conference off by explaining that “to meet the IPCC Special Report target of 1.5°C, we have to halve our global emissions in the next decade and then do it again the following decade!”. On the third day Oxford Professor of Geosystem Science Myles Allen explored the different economic impacts of 2°C rather than 1.5°C leading to devastating consequences for Africa, Brazil, India and Mexico although the Canadians would benefit! He explained that if we don’t reduce out annual emissions by 2bn tonnes then we will be dumping a further 40bn tonnes for others to clean up with technologies that don’t yet exist. As Nicholas Stern had explained in 2006, the sooner we do it the less it will cost.

With just 6 slides Pedro Guertler of the independent climate change think-tank E3G called for Government to eliminate fuel poverty and designate home energy efficiency as an infrastructure priority.  This needs proper funding but, at the moment, England spends €9 per head pre annum on green retrofit which is less than any other country in Europe with Austria spending the most at €85.

While Brexit dominates the airwaves and requires huge efforts to secure environmental protection post Brexit, a policy which Edge debated last summer, it is distracting our energy from climate change. Keith Clarke is quite clear that we have just four years to get the whole country onto a war-footing for climate change. Planning has started for Futurebuild 2020 so please let me have your ideas, put the dates in your diary 3-5th March 2020 and come and discuss ways forward.

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